Editor’s Note: Jose Perez is a Cuban native who lives in Gwinnett County. He is a former member of the Georgia State School Board, and presently serves on the state Charter School Commission. Prior to the election of President Obama in 2008, Perez penned an op-ed for the Gwinnett Daily Post expressing his concern about a future Obama administration.
Here, Perez provides his opinion on the President’s recently announced proposal to normalize relations with Cuba.
I am an American born in Cuba that believes capitalism is the best and most effective mechanism to organize economic and social activity. Is it perfect? Not by a long shot, however in the history of mankind there has not been another system that has more efficiently addressed the individual needs and wants of its citizens.
By most people’s account I am a practical man with a focus on facts that seldom allows emotions to get the best of me. As an American, I can see opening relations with Cuba as an internally consistent American policy; after all we are doing business with China and Vietnam, as well as with other non-communist countries with also terrible human rights tract records.
But, as a Cuban, Mr. President, I have difficulty believing your premise that by normalizing relations you are helping the Cuban people. Perhaps there is already a deal in the works with the Castro brothers. After all, they run the Cuban economy! They are self-appointed one-percenters that have acquired enormous family wealth without ever producing anything. They buy and sell everything in Cuba and then allocate what they think is right to his people. Is there a deal with the Guantanamo base you want to close and a Cruise Line donor? Or more strategically are we trying to prevent a Chinese foothold in our backyard?
Once a thriving economy, today Cuban economic prospects are dire. Conventional wisdom cause and effect blames the U.S. embargo. I do not. I blame Castro’s centralized controls with its diseconomies of scale and the individual disincentives to produce, for driving the Cuban economy into the ground. Cuba in fact trades with the rest of the world, so there is global demand for Cuban goods, but the problem is that Cuba cannot produce enough to satisfy demand. So, throwing additional U.S. demand their way is not going to resolve anything. All it will do is put American tax payer money in Castro’s pockets that they will use to raise havoc in the rest of the world instead of helping the Cuban people.
President Obama, if your intent is really to help both the American and the Cuban people then, negotiations to open relations must extract from Castro a re-establishment of the rule of law with the protection of private property. These protections would enable Cuba to attract the necessary investment and managerial talent necessary to improve production and satisfy global demand. Without these solutions the effort would become another American tax payer money pit and add to the illegal immigration problems that we already have.